Rio Abajo Forest, Puerto Rico

Rio Abajo Forest is one of the Caribbean’s top birding hotspots due to the Puerto Rican Parrots.  It’s a huge forest with many hiking trails and if you had the time and energy you could spend a day or two here.  But I was not only limited by time, I was exhausted and running on empty due to lack of sleep, so all I wanted to so was find the parrots.  I had been in contact with Ricardo Valentin prior to our visit and he was going to show us around the aviary and breeding project but when we arrived at the gate, we couldn’t find anyone around.

Road leading to Rio Abajo.

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First gate, we just went through as we had an appointment.  There was no one around anyway.DSCN4417

This is the 2nd gate which is outside the breeding project.  We parked here and waited for someone to approach us.  We were early so thought maybe they didn’t show up until 9am which was when our appointment was.DSCN4409 DSCN4412

I tried the call box but no one answered.


Signage about the aviary.DSCN4410 DSCN4411

A jogger did eventually show up and said his brother worked there.  He called out to his brother but no one answered so he left.  We waited while the trees cam alive around us.DSCN4413

They blend in quite well but this time (as opposed to other islands we had visited) we were close enough to see the parrots frolicking in the trees.IMG_8352 IMG_8355 IMG_8356 IMG_8362 IMG_8369 IMG_8377 IMG_8380 IMG_8382 IMG_8386 IMG_8392 IMG_8394 IMG_8402 IMG_8405 IMG_8406 IMG_8413 IMG_8415 IMG_8420 IMG_8457 IMG_8468

We actually had a good quality visit with the parrots as they hung around the area for awhile foraging in the branches.  They took off around 10am.  No humans ever showed up so at that point, we were starving and left to go forage for ourselves.  I later found out via email that Mr Valentin had taken ill and didn’t work that day.

Prince Harry Meets Some St Vincent Parrots

Prince Harry is well known for his dedication to conservation and has visited many countries to learn about the wildlife.  When he visited St Vincent last year, he went to the botanical gardens and met some St Vincent Parrots which caught his attention.  He also did a “short walk” along the Vermont Trail but it doesn’t say if he saw the parrots at the look out or not.  My dream would be to get Prince Harry on board more bird conservation issues along with all his followers!




Support Conservation Through These Charities

There are many ways to support conservation efforts around the world and help preserve the habitats the birds we love inhabit.  One way, which is heavily featured throughout this blog is ecotourism and supporting the local communities directly so they are motivated to keep their wild birds and animals wild and free.  Another way is to donate to registered charities who work with the local communities.

So please help us see more of THIS……………….


……………and NONE of THIS!wpt-2015-appeal

In December & January, many of these charities have a matching donation program in which your donation is matched by a sponsor.  I will note these below.  Please take the time to read through these pages and find one or more conservation charities to support.

WORLD PARROT TRUST -Matching through 31 Jan 2017

ARA PROJECT – First $5000 matched


CORNELL LAB OF ORNITHOLOGY – 1st $150,000 matched




Napo Wildlife Center’s Canopy Tower

Along with the parrot clay licks, a visit to the canopy tower will be a highlight of your trip to Napo Wildlife Center.  Our visit which was pretty typical involved the usual 5am wake up call (I set my alarm for 4am otherwise I couldn’t eat breakfast so early), a breakfast buffet, then off in the paddleboat across the lake.  From there it’s about half a kilometer to the canopy tower through thick rainforest habitat.  It’s really exciting to get our first glimpse of the tower!

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It’s a long slog up the stairs to the top.DSCN1790 DSCN1796

The view is awesome!  We were lucky our guide had a scope as many of the birds were at quite a distance.  I struggled to find them with my own camera even after the guide had them in the scope.DSCN1733 DSCN1714

Let’s start with some mammals, here’s a Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth who was there for our whole visit.DSCN1726 DSCN1721a DSCN1756a DSCN1858a

Howler MonkeysIMG_3928a DSCN1735a

Plumbeous PigeonDSCN1718a

Slate-coloured HawkDSCN1731a

White-thoated ToucanDSCN1737a DSCN1739a IMG_3942a

Many-banded AracariIMG_4085a DSCN1748a DSCN1752a DSCN1833a DSCN1835a DSCN1837a

Russet-backed OropendulaDSCN1803a

Crimson-crested WoodpeckerDSCN1767a IMG_3975a

Those tiny specs are Cobalt-winged Parakeets.  I told them to come to the clay lick tomorrow and bring all their friends!IMG_3967

Scarlet MacawsIMG_3995a IMG_4000a

White HawkIMG_4055a IMG_3945 IMG_3943a DSCN1820

Orange-winged Amazon ParrotsIMG_3947a

Look closely, what could that tiny blue speck be?


Maybe a Plum-throated Cotinga?



Or a Spangled Cotinga?DSCN1802

I called this the “Cotinga Tree” because we had both Spangled Cotingas and Plum-throated Cotingas showing up there.IMG_4025a IMG_3992a IMG_4070a IMG_4066a IMG_4064a IMG_4060a DSCN1809a DSCN1804a DSCN1843 DSCN1843a

This White Hawk was pretty far away and a good spot by our guide.DSCN1846a

This Squirrel Cuckoo was pretty close.IMG_4088a

And this shows why you need a really good guide with a really good scope.  Do you see anything in this unedited photo?IMG_4033

What if I zoom in and crop out the cute little Black-headed Parrot (Caique)?IMG_4033a IMG_4040a IMG_4050a DSCN1840 DSCN1840a DSCN1868

I practically had to be dragged off the tower kicking and screaming as the birding was so awesome!  Back down on the ground, we had a leisurely walk back to the paddleboat.DSCN1877

Tiny frogDSCN1878

Cool looking tree, forgot what it’s called.IMG_4094

Poor tired husband!IMG_4104

This little Wire-tailed Manakin led me on a merry chase as he wouldn’t stand still for a photo!IMG_4101a DSCN1875 DSCN1876a

Hah, gotcha!  And with that, we went back to the lodge for lunch!


The Hummingbird Effect

Whenever we visit the Americas, hummingbirds are always a highlight.  They dazzle us with their beauty and brilliance and I could spend hours sitting on lodge verandahs watching them dart to and fro.  A world without hummingbirds would be sad indeed.  The American Bird Conservancy is trying to save their habitat so any help you can give would be appreciated.  And remember that hummingbirds share their habitat with many other birds and mammals so save one, you save them all!

For now, enjoy this compilation clip of some of the most beautiful hummingbirds in the world.


Lost Birds – Can You Help Find Them?

No, I am not talking about pet birds that have flown off, I am talking about entire species that haven’t been seen in the wild in many years.

ABC is mobilizing resources and partners to conduct searches for some of South America’s lost birds. We’re starting with three: the Tachira Antpitta, the Turquoise-throated Puffleg, and the Kinglet Calyptura.

It could be that these species still survive but are simply in locations not frequented by birders because of remote locations or difficult terrain.

I was recently in Ecuador but not in the area where the Turquoise-throated Puffleg was last seen around 70 years ago.  They are quite beautiful, the drawing below comes from Wikipedia.


The search is on for these unseen species and several others.  Occasionally bird species do resurface when researchers or even normal birders stumble upon them.  Wouldn’t it be great to be the one who proves a species is still alive?


Conserving Ecuador’s Great Green Macaw

A few years ago, I saw the Great-Green Macaw in Costa Rica and was aware that a smaller subspecies existed in Ecuador.  I was hoping to see them at Cerro Blanco but this didn’t happen, they are just too rare and the populations are very fragmented.  The Ecuadorians are very keen to protect this bird and proudly display their image when entering the country at Guayaquil airport.

DSCN0319 They are the emblem of Bosque Cerro Blanco shown on the logo and in artwork around the park.  Conservation efforts have been increased to save the bird in both Cerro Blanco and Rio Canande. DSCN0337 DSCN0366

Here are some videos showing conservation efforts in Cerro Blanco (Spanish).


The True Frequent Flyers Don’t Use Miles

No matter how often you travel and how well you use your airline miles to visit amazing places around the world, you won’t be able to top these frequent flyers!

No lounges, no champagne and no overhead lockers but they manage to make incredible journeys every year!

This live map shows the migration patterns of 118 bird species between North & South America over the course of one year.

And if you want to track specific species, use this map.

Carolina Parakeet – Gone But Not Forgotten

**Originally published on Feathered and Free which is being merged to MTTW.

Extinction is forever and there is no better reminder of that than the United States’ only once indigenous parrot species, the Carolina Parakeet. I wish I could give my usual bird profile with a map of where you can see them but sadly all I can do is direct you to the Charleston Museum.  It’s a good reminder to support conservation projects before this happens to any other birds.

From Wikipedia:

The Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) was the only parrot species native to the eastern United States. It was found from the Ohio Valley to the Gulf of Mexico, and lived in old forests along rivers. It was the only species at the time classified in the genus Conuropsis. It was called puzzi la nee (“head of yellow”) or pot pot chee by the Seminole and kelinky in Chikasha (Snyder & Russell, 2002).

The last wild specimen was killed in Okeechobee County in Florida in 1904, and the last captive bird died at the Cincinnati Zoo on February 21, 1918. This was the male specimen “Incas”, who died within a year of his mate “Lady Jane.” Ironically, Incas died in the same aviary cage as the last Passenger Pigeon, “Martha”, had done nearly four years prior. It was not until 1939, however, that it was determined that the Carolina parakeet had become extinct.

At some date between 1937 and 1955, three parakeets resembling this species were sighted and filmed in the Okefenokee Swamp Georgia. However, the American Ornithologists Union concluded after analyzing the film, that they had probably filmed feral parakeets. Additional reports of the bird were made in Okeechobee County in Florida until the late 1920s, but these are not supported by specimens.

The species may have appeared as a very rare vagrant in places as far north as Southern Ontario. A few bones, including a pygostyle found at the Calvert Site in Southern Ontario came from the Carolina Parakeet. The possibility remains open that this particular specimen was taken to Southern Ontario for ceremonial purposes (Godfrey 1986).

The Carolina Parakeet died out because of a number of different threats. To make space for more agricultural land, large areas of forest were cut down, taking away its habitat. The colorful feathers (green body, yellow head, and red around the bill) were in demand as decorations in ladies’ hats, and the birds were kept as pets. Even though the birds bred easily in captivity, little was done by owners to increase the population of tamed birds. Finally, they were killed in large numbers because farmers considered them a pest, although many farmers valued them for controlling invasive cockleburs. It has also been hypothesized that the introduced honeybee helped contribute to its extinction by taking a good number of the bird’s nesting sites.

A factor that contributed to their extinction was the unfortunate flocking behavior that led them to return immediately to a location where some of the birds had just been killed. This led to even more being shot by hunters as they gathered about the wounded and dead members of the flock.

This combination of factors extirpated the species from most of its range until the early years of the 20th century. However, the last populations were not much hunted for food or feathers, nor did the farmers in rural Florida consider them a pest as the benefit of the birds’ love of cockleburs clearly outweighed the minor damage they did to the small-scale garden plots. The final extinction of the species is somewhat of a mystery, but the most likely cause seems to be that the birds succumbed to poultry disease, as suggested by the rapid disappearance of the last, small, but apparently healthy and reproducing flocks of these highly social birds. If this is true, the very fact that the Carolina Parakeet was finally tolerated to roam in the vicinity of human settlements proved its undoing (Snyder & Russell, 2002).

The Louisiana subspecies of the Carolina Parakeet, C. c. ludovicianus, was slightly different in color to the parent species, being more bluish-green and generally of a somewhat subdued coloration, and went extinct in much the same way, but at a somewhat earlier date (early 1910s). The Appalachians separated these birds from the eastern C. c. carolinensis.

In November 2008, I visited the exhibit of the Carolina Parakeet in the Charleston museum.  The taxidermied parrot specimen on display looked like a relative of the Jenday Conure.  Like all conures, he would have had the playful, clownish personality.  It is so sad that this species is gone forever and one more reason why we need to take care of the parrot species we still have, especially the endangered ones so we don’t lose them as well.

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The taxidermied Carolina Parakeet100_0367 100_0366